Summit County has a stronger interest in mitigating the effects of climate change than many other communities. Warming temperatures have chipped away at the length of winter over the past few decades, inviting a beetle invasion that killed off half the trees, and leaving less and less water in the Colorado River.
To affirm the county’s commitment to be on the forefront of climate change policy, Summit’s county commissioners passed a resolution during their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 23, adopting a Community Climate Action Plan that would have the county drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its buildings, transportation and infrastructure within certain time frames.
“A stable climate is essential to Summit County’s natural resources, economy and quality of life,” Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said. “The Summit Community Climate Action Plan is a thoughtfully crafted roadmap that will help ensure we’re doing our part to facilitate the transition to clean, renewable energy.”
The climate action plan was created within the two-year time frame mandated by the Compact of Colorado Communities, a multicommunity agreement to implement climate action plans, in May 2017. Summit County signed onto the compact along with the town of Breckenridge, the town of Frisco, Eagle County and Pitkin County.
The plan aims to reduce countywide emissions by 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050; eliminate all emissions from electricity use by 2035; reduce building energy emissions by 21% by 2030 and 36% by 2050; reduce transportation emissions by 25% by 2030 and 91% by 2050; and reduce waste emissions by 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.
The plan will achieve these goals through various strategies, including electrifying the county’s vehicle fleet, encouraging the use of public transit and non-motorized transportation, amending building and land use codes to optimize energy efficiency, installing renewable energy installations and electric vehicle infrastructure, and improving recycling, compost and water conservation programs.
The plan also seeks to streamline the solar permitting process and implement “Solarize Summit County,” a program that will allow local homeowners the ability to bulk-buy solar panels.
The plan was drawn up by the Summit Climate Action Collaborative, which was in turn facilitated by the High Country Conservation Center. Consulting firm Lotus Engineering & Sustainability performed analysis and modeling of how the county could best cut its greenhouse emissions, finding that the county’s emissions would be reduced by 60% by 2050 with full implementation of the plan. To reach a goal of 80% reduction, the county would have to find a way to reduce its reliance on natural gas-based heating.
Aside from the county, several local towns, ski areas, utilities, the Summit School District, Colorado Mountain College and other significant Summit businesses and organizations are participating in the collaborative.
The plan will seek input from and coordinate with Xcel Energy, Mountain Parks Electric and other utilities and community partners to achieve these goals. Xcel Energy has already committed to going 100% carbon-free by 2050, which would significantly help with the county’s efforts to diminish greenhouse gas emissions.
Summit Climate Action Collaborative members are still studying the climate action plan and their individual requirements, with all participating organizations dedicating staff time to participate in development and implementation of the policies, programs and initiatives identified in the plan.
The climate action plan can be viewed in its entirety on HC3’s website at HighCountryConservation.org/Climate-Action-Plan.